13 October 2011: Liam Fox and The Sri Lanka connection
It was a classic south Asian scene. Sundown, some drinks, a colonial-era hotel with fans cooling a terrace, waves crashing on the nearby beach, a group of British diplomats, a minister – and a 34-year-old businessman called Adam Werritty.
Quite what Werritty was doing at the table was unclear even to the senior Foreign Office diplomats sitting with him.
All they knew was that he had some connection to Liam Fox, the defence secretary who had flown out for a weekend to make a speech to a private local foundation.
Fox and his party slept at the high commissioner’s 1960s residence, filling its four guest bedrooms. Werritty had made his own arrangements.
Yet he was present at the minister’s speech – in honour of a Sri Lankan foreign minister assassinated in 2005 – and at the tea afterwards where he worked a room full of local politicians, diplomats and journalists. Then it was on to the hotel.
Werritty had last been in Sri Lanka in December 2010 when he and Fox had got involved in a difficult diplomatic incident.
Fox had been forced to cancel his trip as it coincided with the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables revealing American diplomats’ concerns over the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record.
Werritty was left to explain the situation to local officials. A task for which he was well equipped since he and Fox had met the Sri Lankan, president himself, in a suite in London’s Dorchester hotel only two weeks before.
A key interlocutor was the president’s foreign affairs fixer, a controversial former businessman called Sachin de Wass.
Sajin was accused of being involved in many controversies ranging from fraud, criminal record, remand time, fraud bureau investigations, unpaid loans, spying, overstepping and unfulfilled promises.
This was not the first time Fox had done Sri Lanka – or its government – a favour.
His own relationship with the troubled island nation dated back to the mid-1990s, when as a junior foreign officer minister he brokered an agreement between competing parties to co-operate in the search for peace.
It did not hold but the “Fox Accord” laid the basis for a long involvement in the island’s tortuous politics.
The President, a populist politician retained significant support among the ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka, was set on a radical solution to the long-running civil war that had crippled the nation’s development over previous decades.
An expanded army with new equipment, backed by paramilitaries, would fight on to the finish, eradicating the Tamil Tiger separatists in the north.
Fox also brokered a multi million-pound media contract between the President and the Bell-Pottinger organization, to offset the expected international outcry.
Researchers working for human rights organizations were concerned that the Sri Lankan government might be seeking to enlist Fox’s support to ease restrictions on arms imports from the UK to the island nation and raised their concerns with the Foreign Office in London.
Information gathered later confirmed that the greatly feared defence secretary (brother of the President), had asked Fox to lobby for more access to British weapons.
The defence secretary was credited for the successes achieved by the Sri Lankan Military in defeating the Tamil Tigers, ending Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war, but allegations of war crimes were soon referred to the World Court for investigation.
In March 2009, as the fighting intensified in the north of the island, Fox made a further visit to Colombo, meeting both government and opposition figures.
It is unclear if Werritty accompanied him but local journalists recall seeing him in Sri Lanka with Fox during almost all visits from spring 2009 onward.
Fox’s visits in March and August 2009 were seen by some observers as an endorsement of the hard-line government which had refused a full inquiry into the claims that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians killed at the end of the civil war or pressure to move towards any broader postwar political settlement with the Tamil population.
It was also in March 2009 that Fox established the Sri Lanka Development Trust in the UK. Records show it did little other than to contribute to the expenses for three of Fox’s trips.
An independent Tamil politician, who was in the forefront of those seeking an end to the abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Sri Lanka and for his integrity combating the climate of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators, met Fox in August 2009 and said that: “the credibility of the British establishment had been destroyed. We were mistaken in our belief that those coming here had the interests of everybody – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim alike – at heart,”
The Foreign Office said the MoD was the “lead organization” for the project, despite it having no defence interests, and the Department for International Development said it had no record of funding the organization. Senior aid agency officials in Colombo said they were unaware of the trust, but did not rule out its existence.
Lord Bell, whose public relations firm Bell Pottinger who worked for the Sri Lankan government until the end of 2010, said that Werritty had attended meetings his firm had held with the Sri Lankan government but he could not say in what capacity or why he was present saying: “I’ve known Werritty, for a number of years and Liam Fox is a friend of 30 years.” (scoops)
Oct 2017: luxury Sri Lankan holiday’s and Tory/DUP hypocrisy
Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist Party’s MP, accepted from the Sri Lankan government, (a country he was securing a post-Brexit trade deal with) two all expenses paid trip holidays, worth £200k plus, ,
Documents revealed that twice in 2013, Paisley took his wife and four children to the country, flying business class. They then stayed in the finest hotels and were provided with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, all paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
It was further revealed that, in the course of discussions with government officials he offered to assist the state broker an oil deal, saying he had: “significant arrangements with national oil suppliers” in Oman and Nigeria.
But the real objective of the ploy was to lure the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Conservative Government to subvert the UK’s Sri Lanka policy and to canvas support especially regarding Sri Lanka related UN human records resolutions and the nations post-war “image” in the West.
Paisley said his visits had been to enable him “to gain a wider knowledge of the political and social situation on the ground in Sri Lanka” although he had no doubt had some free time. His family had accompanied him but had not attended his official meetings.
But his assertion was rendered dubious when it was revealed that he had written to the Prime Minister urging him not to support the UN motion which “internationalized” the dispute within Sri Lanka.
That letter amounted to paid advocacy, putting Paisley in breach of paragraph 11 of the 2012 Code of Conduct for Members.
His efforts continued when, in September 2017, Paisley published a photograph on his social media, posing with the then Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London.
The caption of the photograph read: “With Sri Lanka high commissioner to discuss NI-Sri Lanka trade deal after Brexit.”
And, only two days after that meeting, Paisley posted yet another photo with yet another ‘friend’ of Sri Lanka in the Conservative Party, Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary.
The primary reason why the trips caused controversy is that that they breached the parliamentary rule applying to all MPs, that they have to register family holidays, unless they are: “wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the Member’s parliamentary or political activities”.
The Register of Members’ Financial Interests is an important mechanism for accountability.
It enables MPs to declare income, gifts or affiliations that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest with their parliamentary roles.
According to the report, expenses that go beyond the registration threshold should be declared, and the entries in the register should be highly detailed, covering the costs of travel, hotels, meals, hospitality and care hire.
Politics of shady networking, luring foreign policymakers with lavish gifts, holidays and perks is a strategy all too frequently used by Sri Lankan authorities as a “networking method”.
As detailed above, Paisley has his place in a list of British MPs who benefitted from generous treatment by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Other notorious MP’s who have a place on that list include Liam Fox and James Wharton, Tory MP for Stockton South from May 2010 to May 2017 who frequented Sri Lanka as a guest and defender of the Sri Lankan government in the British House of Commons. (Telegraph)
19 April 2018: Liam Fox discusses trade with Sri Lankan President
Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, who has a controversial relationship with Sri Lanka, met with the Sri Lankan President in London yesterday, where they discussed trade and investment opportunities between the two governments.
They had discussions regarding strengthening relations paving the way to the expansion of trade and investment.
Fox was forced to resign from his previous post as defence secretary in 2011, after a report into his conduct concluded that he “breached the ministerial code” and displayed a “failure of judgment”, as he had accepted at least three fully paid return trips to Sri Lanka, with accommodation and full board, funded by its government.
Hehad enjoyed stays in five-star hotels and had first-class travel funded for himself and Adam Werritty, a self-styled ‘advisor’ and personal friend, who accompanied him on his trips and reportedly discussed arms deals with the regime. (Tamil Guardian)